Charlie Sheen and Bipolar Disorder. What is the media’s responsibility?



 Where is the help for Charlie Sheen?


I always like to write about those in the public eye who seem to have bipolar disorder.  In this case, even I was unable to see what was going on. I’m a big fan of the Dan Patrick  Show. It’s all about sports and Charlie Sheen has been a regular guest. A few weeks ago he started calling in himself and asking to be on the air.  I heard two interviews. He didn’t sound manic- but he definitely sounded stressed and out of touch with the realities of drug and alcohol use- as most of  us with mania have experienced.

 Then I noticed him him on a few other shows and he looked terrible. I felt bad for him- it’s not ok for the media to exploit those who are ill. I could write more on this, but I feel that Joe Pompeo in his artilce below says it all. Let’s hope that Charlie gets help TODAY. Can you imagine if our mood swings were televised? Or if we had to see our loved one’s self destruct on television? That is what’s happening to him- and hopefully the media will see the role it has played in the sad situation. Here is Joe’s article:

News outlets take flak for hyping Sheen spectacle

By Joe Pompeo

The unhinged actor, whose associations with drugs, hookers and porn stars have kept him in the headlines since last fall, has given four major video interviews since CBS last week abruptly canceled his hit show, “Two and a Half Men.” And Sheen’s termination, fittingly enough, issued from yet another controversial media appearance–a radio interview in which Sheen repeatedly attacked the show’s creator.

The latest round of highly candid Sheen chats-with ABC News, NBC News, TMZ and CNN–has made for endlessly entertaining TV and online video, which have, in turn, fanned out into a constant stream of tweets and blog posts chronicling Sheen’s eccentric, at times utterly incoherent, ramblings. Indeed, Sheen-mania built to such a pitch that the star’s own longtime flack resigned because “I’m unable to work effectively as his publicist.”

But as producers and commentators continue to program evermore ranting Sheen footage, some media critics are taking issue with the whole spectacle. Sheen has clearly suffered some sort of mental disturbance, they insist, and  it’s unseemly for news professionals to keep using his outbursts to feed the 24/7 news cycles.

“They’re not just pointing at Charlie Sheen’s self-immolation, they are throwing gasoline on it, and with Sheen’s distress as obvious as it is, making accomplices of the audience,” wrote Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher on Tuesday morning.

“The coverage has become excessive, even dangerous,” the Poynter Institute’s Julie Moos agreed  echoing comments Monday  from Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star: “It’s time for all the tabloid media to stop returning Charlie’s texts and calls. Instead, they should be using their journalism to identify the people around Charlie who can actually get him into a rehab facility — against his will if necessary — and then start badgering them to do something.”

To read the entire article, click  here.

Thanks to Joe Pompeo for his great article.


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30 comments to Charlie Sheen and Bipolar Disorder. What is the media’s responsibility?

  • Barbara

    I cannot understand why there is so much noise in the media about Charlie’s Shin moods and life style. He is who he is and buzz off… as long as he not hurts anyone. His children will be just fine and no one can assure that children growing up in “normal” family will be happy and contributing to the society when they grow up.

  • Karen petz

    I feel sorry for him, but I don’t think he can be shut up! If the media stopped asking….would he just stop? I don’t think so!

    • chris

      No sorry. Charlie cannot stop this. He is high as as kite and 10 feet tall, bullet proof besides. Always he is right. “I can do” anything under the sun.Before he falls off the stage of Life, we can offer some well intentioned support. File a petition to have him committed under law.

      I think(my opine)that bipolar is managable. The brakes on his runaway mental train of thought will not slow by coasting or drug alcohol treatment alone. (Do I get sick because I started drinking or does the sickness trigger the drinking) When left not treated as dual DX or misdiagosed as other mental illness, the result is tragic.
      We watched Britteny and others in the Public eye meltdown.
      Charlie’s media coverage(some self inflicted) takes it to a higher level.

  • I agree with what Aaron Barnhart said. Instead of continuing to make a big deal about a celebrity’s or “newsworthy” person’s mental (or drug and alcohol) problems, the media should encourage the newsworthy person’s family and friends to get help for him or her in any way possible.

  • Denise

    I agree that he needs help and that the way the news media is doing a lot of harm. They only care about $$$$$. It sells, I guess. So sad. 🙁

  • Nancy

    I think it’s awfully pretentious for us to diagnose Mr. Sheen as having bipolar disorder when no one on here is a doctor who has consulted with him. Drugs and alcohol have adverse affects on people and this could be the reason he is acting out the way he is. Of course, it is likely that he is bipolar, but who are we to assume he is and then talk about him without any personal knowlege. Stop diagnosing people and work only with facts.

    • It seems to me you definitely haven’t experienced bipolar are you would have never made those statements. Being bipolar myself I can say that. I don’t have to be a Dr to know how I feel inside or how my actions were or weren’t. As I said in a previous most. I seen so much of myself in his episodes it wasn’t funny at all. My heart feels for him and can feel what he is experiencing. You I don’t think you can. I wasn’t diagnosing I stated an opinion just as you did. And my statement was from experience. Not hear say. God bless that you or a love one never has to experience the “fun” of being bipolar. Thank you

    • Beth

      Where is Charlie Sheen’s doctor? Did I miss something? He should have medical professionals at his side and before, during this horrible reality show of a person’s life, and obviously after he crashes so that he does not do anymore harm to himself. Screw his career, we are talking about his life. Get some medical professionals involved and I agree the media should get a conscience and go away.

  • My heart aches for him each time they show him in an interview. It is the ole “been there, done that” feeling. But not in the eye of the public, thanks to all the media coverage. If I had been a celebrity during one of my manic episodes I would have been right where he is now. I wish there was something I could do to reach out and help him. But there is nothing. In his mind, as we know, he is riding on top of the world. All that can be done in my opinion for now is a lot of hard praying. I do hope he don’t crash and burn to very hard. I hope he comes through all of this with only the embarrassment and doesn’t have to pay the ultimate price that some bipolar cursed people do. By this I know you know I am talking about his life. The media feeds on the short comings of others. They do not care if it is a medical, psychical, emotional, mental, financial, moral, or any other problems a celebrity may have. They are know more than buzzards, no they are not fit to be even associated with buzzards. Because buzzards help our system by ridding it of the decaying rotting left overs. The media don’t even wait. They try to put people there so they can be the ones to get the first story on their falling. God bless and keep Charlie Sheene and all the Charlie Sheenes out there famous and not. For he is the only help that one has at certain points in time through the bipolar illness. If he doesn’t watch over us, who will? I just want to cry for him and would if it would help him.

  • San Rogers

    I agree that Charlie Sheen’s behavior is a symptom of the brain disorder we know as and have experienced as bipolar mania. As you have said, substance abuse is often one of the ways we try to “treat” the disturbance we are experiencing. I don’t know whether we should expect the media, in general, to understand and not use the bizzare behavior to make money. On the other hand, I would hope someone in the media (and whoever else might have that opportunity) might do their homework and utilize this opportunity to educate the public about this disorder and how we might respond to situations like this in a caring way. It is sad to see a public figure, or anyone, embarrass themselves that way, which, I have found, is followed by a terible shame and often depression. I pray we will one day display compassion and find ways to help prevent that terrible experience of shame that follows a manic episode and sometimes leads to suicide or something that hurts almost as much.

  • First I thought Gadhafi in Libya was acting strange, Now Charlie Sheen, long before that I had thought that George W. was. Yet in some ways our entire society is acting strange. We dispense Ritalin to school children, and who knows what the real problem is? Maybe there’s some ingredient in food, milk, sugar that is doing this to some of us (but not others).
    Should I be anxious? What can I do? Should I care?
    so many unanswered questions.

  • It is obvious that he is suffering from Bipolar Disorder, even the way he talks very fast at times. I really feel for him and he needs to be protected at all costs, his friends should rally around him and try get him into a program to stablize him. Bipolar is one of the most complex, misunderstood disorders, the persons behavior is bizzare at times. They are full of complexities, feel they have to justify themselves and are pulled to pieces which eventually caused them to fall apart. The world out there needs to wake up and have empathy and above all understanding and learn WHAT BIPOLAR DISORDER IS !!!! Many families don’t bother and write off their relatives because of this, this in turn can caused
    utter devestation, I speak from experience having lost a son to suicide.


    • I totally agree with you Cathy. The ones that speak out about thinking he doesn’t have it or making a diagnosis about him having it do not know anything about the disorder in the first place. One can tell my the statement that are being made. Most of the world is ignorant when it comes to mental illness. And bipolar is at the top of the list. There are may types of mental illness and they all have their list of symptoms. Just as a diabetic has their list of symptoms and so on and so on. But mental illness even in today’s time is still a taboo. If he was having a heart attack on air they’d be getting him help or an asthma attack he’d be getting help. They wouldn’t be filming people making things worse. So misunderstood.

  • Eva Norgren

    Charlie Sheen – is he just inconvenient, or does he talk “ouside of reality”?

  • Rose

    In the delusional/manic state Charlie was in during some of these interviews, I doubt he will even remember them. Yes, he’s being exploited by the media and all those that are feeding the mania for their own amusement. These people don’t understand bipolar and don’t know the harm they are doing.

    • Beth

      Totally agree. The networks and other media outlets need to turn to a doc who can bring some sense to this for the people who don’t know it, don’t have it. They have a responsibility and no one really knows, even us patients, what is not exactly right in our brains. Geez, I am starting to be ashamed of our country and our role models. We are killing each other over and over in so many ways.

  • Antoinette Bertella

    The media did the same thing to Britney Spears. They used her for bizarre headlines to sell their rags. Exploited her illness without ever mentioning the idea that she could be sick. No…we still cannot speak out loud about mental disorder in this country, and the need to address it and find better answers. Where is the empathy?

  • It is truly a public train wreck. A lot of people have let him down. He needs a serious intervention!

  • Gail

    I am concerned to have people labelling Charlie Sheen with Bi-Polar. It is too convenient for people to pick a particular behaviour and say its Bi-Polar. It plain that he is suffering from something, mental illness or drug addiction, but I would appreciate it if someone would get him to a pschyiatrist and have this matter taken care of.

  • Jean

    Charlie Sheen is certainly exhibiting many of the symptoms of BPI. I agree with Julia that the media is exploiting this man’s illness. The current media circus hurts everyone suffering from mental illness and the people who love and care for them. I doubt Sheen would be the brunt of all these hurtful jokes if he had cancer or a heart condition.

  • Barbara Sherry

    I do think that Charlie Sheen seems unglued but I also think it is premature to diagnose him with Bipolar Disease by what you see on television. No one regardless of how much personal experience they have with Bipolar Disease is in a position to diagnose him unless they have M.D. after their name an even then, they would have to examine him thoroughly NOT by what the media is presenting!

  • Richard Elfering

    I agree with most that it is troubling to label people from such a distance. I don’t like labels at all – Do two people ever have the same illness in the same way? I think he has CharlieSheen-ism which is reported to be leaving pieces of his life scattered about. Hard to put back together. It is the wild ride into disintergration of self (and that depression); that we should have great empathy for. It just doesn’t matter who. If it is bipolar, he is just human; offer love and hope.

  • JB

    Observing Charlie’s behavior and hearing his words is a sobering reminder of how bizarre some of us with bipolar disorder become when we are manic. it sobers us into being more compassionate, for as Cathy wrote, ‘there but for the grace of god go i.’ i pray and hope that Charlie will be able to humble himself whenever he realizes he can’t hold it all together, and admit that he needs help to recover and be well. living well is not always an easy sell either, since most of us still struggle and don’t often feel well even when we are doing the right things, taking our medications and trying to live a more balanced life. it is a constant process of tweeking and learning and trying new ways of coping with our related challenges. as helpless as many of us feel to help Charlie, i do pray that God will be with him in these defining moments, giving him the courage and strength to try a different way to get well. i hope he will get better as he moves through the broken pieces of these recent events. i hope, i hope, i hope.

  • Laurie Lubbert

    Bi-Polar needs to be addressed more as an illness, we dont’ just get it. And the sex and drinking is probably becae he has the money, but also is part of being Bi-polar. Please make some changes with helping, not exploiting a family dealing with it. We have much more positive things strides to make this a better world, or we are just introducing the negative thinking and on this.

  • While I agree with the people who say we shouldn’t “diagnose” Charlie Sheen with bipolar, I also agree that his behaviors and the behaviors of a bipolar going manic are very similar. His use of drugs and alcohol are definitely fueling a fire, but the cause at this time is not know for certain.
    That said, I do think that the media is overdoing the coverage. If he were a star whose show was cancelled even though it was a hit, there would be the announcement of the cancellation, star’s reaction, and the network’s response. That’s it. So why is it soooo much more interesting when the star starts ranting about it incoherently?
    If we were in a conversation with that same person and they started to rant on and on, we’d get uncomfortable and either try to stop or redirect them or make a quick escape. Just because he’s famous and on t.v., doesn’t make his rantings that much easier to listen to. I bet that if you surveyed people, you would find most can’t watch one of his rantings from start to finish. It would make them too uncomfortable.
    His family/doctor/any doctor should be getting in front of a judge and using all this “wonderful” footage of his behavior to have him declared a threat to himself or others, or even mentally incomptent (just to get him the help he needs, not saying bp makes you incomptent), and having him committed before he gets worse (which is entirely possible) and tries to fly off a bridge or crash so badly he decides sucicide is the only out and jumps off a bridge.
    I know that my family didn’t realize how bad I was because I was not living under the same roof. When I did have to move in with them, because I lost my job because I was sooo bad off, they took me physically to the doctor’s office and had me sign off on them sitting in with me for my appointment. Then they went to the pharmacy and got the meds, then for the first few days made me take them in front of them. I probably should have been hospitalized, but even living with me didn’t let them see everything that I was doing and was going on.
    Thankfully, that crash was soo bad that I became really active in my treatment and diligent in my drug regimen and now I feel great. I have never, ever felt like this before or I don’t remember it. It’s not mania because there’s no anxiety or speeding thoughts and I smile a lot for no more reason then I want to. So if you’re trying to get better and the meds aren’t working, keep at it. It is possible to find the right combination and the right therapy/management.
    But I digress, I hope that Charlie Sheen’s family or friends get him the help he needs soon, because I would hate to hear he went off a bridge or something tragic like that. He’s a funny guy when he’s not flying high, his dry sarcasm and blunt points of view are great. Now he’s not funny, he’s just acting funny because of something going seriously wrong between his ears.

  • Ramona

    People with Bi-Polar disorder can lead very functional, satisfying lives. The tragedy is that often we are compelled to self-medicate. That may be what Sheen is doing but there are so many factors that must be considered before labelling someone with a mental illness like this one. It isn’t something you want to have! The key to successful treatment is a more holistic approach. You must be willing to adopt a new and different lifestyle, one that is condusive to a state of balance. It’s not easy to do but has been very good for me. Sheen’s lifestyle will certainly exacerbate the condition. He needs a good trusted friend to reach out to him. I, for one, will be praying about it.

  • My own manic episodes have been very public – so I cringed as I watched Sheen go up in flames. On the other hand, he has arrogantly refused treatment for decades and consequently bears some of responsibility. Everybody loves a good trainwreck so naturally he has been the topic of water cooler conversations. But why this sudden attack of conscience? Reality TV shows (now the majority of TV content) have been mining this vein deeper and deeper, parading human misery and degradation for the delight of all. We love to watch stars rise – but we love to watch them fall even more.

  • janey

    I completely agree Alistair. Although Charlie Sheen needs to be accountable for his actions, there is a component to dually- diagnosed folks that is extremely self-destructive and without the mood altering non-prescription drugs, someone like Charlie Sheen might be able to bounce back. It’s like any other addiction, one has to hit bottom in order to climb out of the well.

    I truly hope this happens for Charlie Sheen. The problem and solution are two sides of the same coin. Charlie will hopefully come to that realization and make necessary steps to flip the coin over. And yes shame on the media for pouring gasoline on his fire. I’ll always remember Dr. Phil’s irresponsible behaviors towards Brittany Spears- revealing her diagnosis to the media. The shackles and chains are gone…but the stigma and refusal to truly understand the mentally ill remains. We have to rise above it and advocate for one another. That is my mission.

    Peace and wellness be with you.